Erin Napier urges parents to 'protect your kids' online after revealing terrifying incident with her family last year

·4-min read

While Star Wars fans are celebrating May the 4th (Be With You), for HGTV star Erin Napier, the day marks an unsettling anniversary as a parent. Napier shares daughters Helen, 4, and Mae, 11 months, with husband Ben, all of whom star on HGTV’s Home Town, which documents the couple as they restore Southern homes in Laurel, Miss.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Napier, 36, reflected on a scary experience her family had a year ago when a man dressed like a Star Wars Stormtrooper came to Laurel and started saying "some very strange things" about Helen. At the time, Helen was 3 and Napier was just weeks away from giving birth to Mae.

“May the 4th be with you. Not my favorite day,” she captioned the post. “One year ago ... Ben started getting messages from lots of folks in town about a 54-year-old California man dressed like a Star Wars storm trooper, wearing an ankle monitor bracelet, who had come to town and was saying some very strange things. Things like ‘God sent me here to protect the women of Laurel, specifically little Helen.’”

Napier went on to explain that the man had bought a house a block from her family’s home and was living in it with “nothing but a suitcase and these toys for when my 3-year-old daughter ‘comes over to visit,” she said in reference to the toys pictured on the Instagram post.

“Ben saw red, his blood boiled,” she continued. “I was terrified and 9.5 months pregnant."

She added that while the man was ultimately sent back to California, over the next two weeks he confronted the young daughter of Home Town cast members Mallorie and Jim Rasberry while she was out with her nanny.

"[He] said unsettling things," Napier wrote. "Disgusting things.

We all had 24-hour security officers at home, while we slept, while we worked. Helen asked who they were and why they were here, and we never told her the truth. ‘They work with us! They’re friends of ours who are staying with us for a little while!’”

She continued, “A year on, I still think of this thing every day but it doesn’t scare me anymore. I’m thankful for the way our neighborhood guarded us and put up a hedge of protection when we needed it and it further validated what I already knew: protect your kids in the online world much as you can.”

The scary anecdote received a swarm of support from Napier's followers — including warnings from other parents about the need to protect children online.

"So glad God sent protection for your family," one follower wrote. "I’ll never understand the ugliness of this world but involving children is next level dark. I’m so glad those sweet babies are safe! I pray all the time for God to put a hedge of protection around my family. Love your show and the sweetness of your family you are able to share."

"Thank you for sharing your experience," another added. "It’s a bittersweet reminder that we all need to be vigilant about keeping the littles in our lives safe and that close community is important."

"How frightening and sickening!" one comment read. "But thank God for your community who looks out for each other! As if us mommas and daddies don’t have enough to worry about."

The Napier family has used their online platform to speak about the ups and downs of parenting. Earlier this year, the couple spoke to Yahoo Life about being real about parenting on social media.

"We're very thankful for the people who want to keep up with us on social media," she said. "I'm not thankful for people who find us on social media and give us a hateful opinion that was not asked for. That's not how people communicate in the real world."

"If you see me on the street or in the grocery store, you're not gonna say something snarky or mean to me," Ben chimed in. "You're not gonna say anything. You're not gonna treat Erin like that. ... You don't treat people like that."

"Anytime someone is cruel on social media, I feel like the adult thing to do is to respond to that the way an adult should respond to that," Erin added, "which is to say, 'you're old enough to know better [and] to know how to communicate. And if this is how you're gonna communicate, let me help you unfollow me.'"

Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.